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01 September 2021 • Resources

The future of ecommerce: 17 need-to-know insights for your online store

The future of ecommerce: 17 need-to-know insights for your online store

The ecommerce industry has evolved rapidly over the years as technologies have improved and customer expectations have changed. At the same time, ecommerce growth has been tremendous. 

While this presents incredible opportunities for both new and established ecommerce businesses, it also creates challenges that require ongoing attention.

After all, your online store must evolve as the industry changes. By doing so, you’ll be better positioned to keep up with the competition. It can simultaneously accommodate consumer demands and expectations, optimize profits, and achieve other goals.

With this in mind, ecommerce business owners like you must constantly look toward the future to identify current and developing trends. 

Here are some of the trends you can expect to see as ecommerce’s importance continues to increase!

1. Worldwide ecommerce growth continues

According to Social Media Today, ecommerce sales grew at an average rate of more than 25% per year between 2014 and 2017. 

In addition, data from Statista reveals that ecommerce sales in 2020 reached $4.28 trillion (USD). By 2024, this figure is expected to be around $6.39 trillion (USD). 

What does this growth mean for your ecommerce business? 

With substantial growth projected to continue, there’s ample room for your online store to become more profitable if it’s properly positioned to do so. Keeping up with emerging trends and seizing all available opportunities are essential steps for continued or improved success in ecommerce.

2. Omnichannel shopping is on the rise

While some shoppers will continue to complete their full shopping journey on one platform or outlet, an increasing number of shoppers will use multiple channels. 

According to Harvard Business Review, approximately 73% of today’s consumers will use multiple channels for product research, the purchase process, and even product delivery or pick-up. 

Keep in mind that omnichannel marketing can describe an entirely online journey using different platforms. However, it can also describe a blend of in-person and online experiences.

One of the more important reasons to focus on the omnichannel shopping trend is profitability. 

Harvard Business Review also found that the average order value was approximately 9% higher when consumers used at least four channels versus a single channel for their shopping process. 

As you position your ecommerce business to take advantage of this opportunity, identify where your target audience conducts research and prefers to shop.

3. Social shopping is booming

Ecommerce businesses previously used social media platforms to connect with consumers, promote their brand image, and drive traffic to their ecommerce sites. Today, however, many social media platforms now offer on-site sales and are direct ecommerce sales channels. 

For example, YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter all have a buy or shopping feature. Instagram has “shoppable posts,” which enable you to create a direct link to your ecommerce store.

Being able to connect with new and established customers online is essential for your ecommerce store’s success. 

The ability to now sell conveniently and directly to your target audience on more platforms offers exciting opportunities that you can tap into today. Doing so will enable you to optimize your customers’ omnichannel shopping experiences.

4. Ecommerce is increasing in emerging markets

A significant amount of the projected growth in the ecommerce industry for the next few years is in emerging markets. In fact, The Economic Times reports that 3 billion consumers will be in emerging markets in 2022.

This represents up to 20% of projected retail sales for that time period. Some of the largest emerging markets will be Russia, India, China, South Africa, and Brazil.

As you look toward the future, consider how your ecommerce store can tap into the exciting opportunities available through these emerging markets. 

Adjusting your marketing efforts, product line and other aspects of your operation could open up the potential for incredible growth in market share and profits in the next few years.

5. B2B ecommerce sales are growing

Does your business-to-consumer (B2C) business model have room to expand to sell to commercial customers as well? 

Statista states that business-to-business (B2B) ecommerce sales in the US will likely reach up to $1.2 (USD) trillion in 2021. If your business isn’t positioned to take advantage of that growth, you could be leaving a tremendous amount of revenue on the table.

Keep in mind that there’s more involved in selling to businesses than simply adjusting your marketing efforts. 

Businesses often need to communicate with a sales representative, negotiate pricing and terms, gain internal approval after receiving a quote, and take other steps. Your ecommerce business will need to adapt accordingly to take advantage of this potential growth opportunity.

6. Personalization in ecommerce is becoming standard

At first glance, online shopping is seemingly impersonal because face-to-face human interaction is eliminated from the customer’s experience. However, ecommerce actually enables personalization on a deeper level. 

In fact, today’s shoppers are increasingly expecting at least some amount of personalization from the ecommerce stores that they do business with. Personalization is enabled through your store’s access to demographics, shopping or browsing history, and other data.

For example, when shoppers subscribe to a newsletter or request to receive email marketing material, they often expect the communication to be customized with their first name on it. 

The content will also ideally be tailored to fit their needs and interests. While the customer is shopping on your website, onsite personalization may include tailored product recommendations based on previous online activities.

7. More people are shopping on mobile devices

Statista reports that approximately 72.9% of all retail ecommerce sales are expected to come from shopping on mobile devices in 2021. 

Shopping on a handheld device is often easier and more convenient than doing so while sitting in front of a computer. However, this is only the case when the store’s website is properly formatted to accommodate shoppers using mobile devices. 

Your ecommerce store must have a mobile-friendly design and checkout process to thrive.

In addition, with mobile commerce on the rise, you should consider developing an app for your shoppers’ convenience if you don’t already have one. Creating your own app is now relatively easy to do thanks to advanced technologies. 

Besides improving the shoppers' convenience, a mobile app supports branding and marketing. Through your store’s app, for example, you can send customers push notifications to boost marketing efforts in a cost-effective way.

8. Use of voice technology for shopping is growing

Voice technology is increasingly used in homes and cars on a regular basis to do everything from play music to adjust the thermostat, make a grocery list, and more. 

One of the newer trends in ecommerce is the use of voice technology to browse through merchandise and even to execute a purchase online. Voice technology may be accessed via Amazon Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant, and other virtual assistants.

Amazon Alexa was enabled with voice purchasing technology in 2016, and the technology was added to other digital assistants in the following years. 

However, the trend of using voice technology for shopping is still on an upward trajectory. According to Statista, the number of people using smart speakers to make purchases in the US is expected to reach 23.5 million in 2021.

9. New payment methods are becoming available

When determining what ecommerce customers want in a shopping experience, you’ll definitely want to consider the payment methods that your site allows.

Your ecommerce store must accept the payment type that a customer prefers to use. If not, the customer may be driven to another ecommerce store’s website.

Customers are increasingly using Samsung Pay, PayPal, Google Pay, and other forms of digital wallets as their preferred payment options.

A look at payment trends in the ecommerce industry wouldn’t be complete without mentioning cryptocurrencies. Until recently, cryptocurrencies have overwhelmingly been used for large commercial transactions. 

Some larger retailers and ecommerce sites, such as Overstock and others, have recently expanded their payment options to be more inclusive of cryptocurrencies.

This trend may grow in the near future, so now’s the time to explore how your ecommerce store may accommodate cryptocurrency payments.

10. Automation is becoming more prevalent

Many aspects of an ecommerce business’s operation can be automated successfully. This then enables smaller businesses to expand to international markets without significant roadblocks. 

Automation reduces expenses, increases productivity, and eliminates issues related to human error. It can essentially level the playing field so that smaller online businesses can compete directly with some of the larger and well-known ecommerce sites.

In addition, automation empowers ecommerce stores to easily adjust their storefront to suit the season, correspond with promotions, and more. 

Automation also supports segmentation for personalized customer experiences, enhanced customer tracking with data analytics, and inventory management. Even fraud detection and prevention measures can be automated to protect the store’s brand and profits.

11. Interest in sustainability is growing

Consumers are increasingly making buying decisions based on a brand’s alignment with their values. One of the more important causes that consumers are interested in is sustainability and overall eco-friendliness. 

This goes far beyond the use of recycled or recyclable packaging materials to cover the sustainability of the products themselves and the sustainability of the manufacturing process. 

It also extends to eco-friendly supply chains, such as direct-to-consumer shipping, that eliminate unnecessary, wasteful parts in the journey.

Through ecommerce advancements, some businesses are now taking advantage of decentralized manufacturing facilities. These can be viewed as a network of small factories that are located across the country and beyond. 

By producing products closer to the shipping destination, shipping costs and related pollution are eliminated. When this is combined with zero-waste or minimal packaging, consumers may be willing to pay a premium for doing their part to support ecommerce stores using a sustainable business model.

12. More businesses are using private-label products

Manufacturers and brands that have traditionally sold their products via retailers are starting to sell directly to consumers more often. 

This has enabled them to manage growth, establish relationships with their customers directly, and personalize the product or the shopping experience to suit the customer. For example, some manufacturers enable customers to tailor product packaging or to customize the actual product in various ways.

At the same time, private-label brands are gaining traction because of their improved ability to connect with consumers and compete head-on against established brands. 

Direct-to-consumer private-label brands are bypassing retailers. By eliminating the middleman from the process, they’re able to reduce overhead, increase profits, and take advantage of direct marketing opportunities.

13. Use of video in marketing is increasing

If your ecommerce business isn’t actively including video in your marketing strategies, it may be time to make a crucial adjustment. 

According to Tubular Insights, up to 64% of shoppers made a purchase after watching a branded marketing video. This may be a video on social media platforms or even on the ecommerce site’s product page.

Keep in mind that many shoppers prefer to watch a video rather than to read a product description. 

If your ecommerce store sells products with special features, demonstrating those features with a video can convey benefits that may otherwise be overlooked by shoppers who skim over text. 

Offering both text and video will more comprehensively cover all the bases and provide your customers with vital information in their preferred format.

14. Customer experience is the focus

Today’s online shoppers have a wide range of ecommerce websites to choose from to fulfill their shopping needs. This means that there’s a growing need for online retailers to provide a top-notch customer experience to help their business stand out from the competition.

As the owner of an online store, it’s essential that you examine how customers experience shopping on your site from start to finish.

For instance, your store should be easy to navigate and feature a clean, uncluttered design to avoid distracting or confusing shoppers. Site visitors should be able to find what they’re looking for quickly, whether that’s a certain product, shipping information, your FAQ page, or something else.

The checkout process should flow seamlessly and allow customers to finalize a purchase as a guest without having to create an account on your site.

Finally, note that the unboxing experience is important for many online shoppers. Your ecommerce packaging can have a major impact on how customers feel about your brand and if they decide to shop with you again. 

15. AI and chatbots are being used more frequently in customer service

Chatbots are more commonly in use on ecommerce store websites today to improve the customer experience. Customers can interact with an ecommerce chatbot via a messaging function for assistance with a new order, an order in transit, a return, or another issue. 

Because ecommerce stores are open for business around the clock, chatbots serve the critical role of providing immediate customer service, regardless of the hour.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is used behind the scenes to support the store’s efficient operation, and this ultimately plays into the customer experience. For example, AI may assist with inventory tracking, reordering, and other critical tasks.

While these are important activities, they may weigh down your schedule unnecessarily when done manually. When AI completes these tasks, consumers may benefit from improved customer service and access to a steady supply of inventory.

16. Stores are offering interactive shopping experiences

One of the more significant complaints that today’s consumers have with the online shopping experience is that they can’t physically interact with products before making a purchase. 

Numerous quality images of a product from various angles can dramatically improve a shopper’s comfort level when making a purchase online. However, augmented reality takes this to the next level.

Through augmented reality, consumers can now view items in their space before they make a purchase. 

For example, this technology enables the shopper to place a sofa or another piece of furniture in the actual room. By doing so, the shopper can visualize the item’s dimensions, coloring and other crucial factors in a realistic environment.

17. Consumers are doing more pre-purchase research

According to V12, approximately 81% of shoppers today will complete online research before making a purchase. This includes consumers who purchase online as well as in stores. 

With this in mind, today’s ecommerce stores have the opportunity to compete with traditional stores, attracting shoppers who may have otherwise made an in-person purchase at a store in town. 

Your ecommerce store must therefore excel in search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing, and other online marketing strategies. This will help your business to be more easily found by consumers who are researching their options.

As people are considering both online and retail shopping options in their research, they also expect that ecommerce stores will offer convenient shipping options. Shoppers are not usually willing to pay expensive shipping fees and wait longer than a few days for a shipment to arrive if a local store has a similar product.

Final thoughts

Now that you understand many of the more important ecommerce trends, you can more easily determine if your business is poised to move forward confidently and successfully. 

Keep in mind that this industry continues to evolve rapidly, so you must consistently monitor developing trends. 

By remaining informed and focusing on evolving along with the industry, you can be better positioned to take advantage of future opportunities as they become available and navigate successfully through challenges!

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